Until large parts of Central Asia were incorporated into the Russian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century, relations between India and Central Asia had been close. During the post-1971 era of close Indian-Soviet relations, cultural exchanges flourished between India and the Central Asian republics. The dissolution of the Soviet Union forced India to construct policies to deal with the new political situation in the Central Asian republics. In 1991 and 1992, India established diplomatic relations with Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan and worked with these newly independent states to develop frameworks for diplomatic, economic, and cultural cooperation. Besides its long historical connections with this region, India sought good relations for several reasons: to prevent Pakistan from developing an anti-India coalition with the Central Asian states in the dispute over Kashmir, to persuade those states not to provide Pakistan with assistance in its nuclear program, to ensure continued contacts with long-standing commercial and military suppliers, and to provide new opportunities to Indian businesses.
Normal diplomatic and trade relations are an Indian goal in relations with the Central Asian republics. For example, economic and cultural affairs were the focal point of Indian prime minister P.V. Narahimsa Rao's official visit to Uzbekistan and Kazakstan in May 1993. Security matters also are important as witnessed by a February 1995 visit to India by Kazakstan's defense minister. Adherence to democracy and secularism by these countries also was regarded by India as desirable in order to ensure stability and social progress. The geopolitical competition between India and Pakistan for influence in these countries is likely to be a long-tern factor.
With regard to Afghanistan, India supported the Marxist regime in Kabul until its collapse in the spring of 1992. India then attempted to regain some influence in the country by cooperating with Iran to provide assistance to Dari-speaking and other minorities against the Pashtun groups backed by Pakistan in the ensuing civil war.
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